Monday, March 9, 2020

Brotherly Love

Step Brothers
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn
Released: July 25, 2008
Viewed in theaters: July 27, 2008

Is Step Brothers a totally stupid film? One might say unequivocally so. Did I laugh my ass off while watching it? Most definitely so! There are so many stupid moments and dialogue in this movie and some of it's so absurd which makes it so funny.

The movie knows you came to watch Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly interact as step brothers who act like they're twelve, but they're biologically forty. Brennen (Ferrell) still lives at home with his divorced mom, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) after being laid off from PetSmart and Dale (Reilly) has never gotten a job and still lives at home with his widowed dad, Robert (Richard Jenkins), who's a doctor (and Brennan is not impressed that he attended medical school at Northwestern and John Hopkins). Nancy and Robert meet at a conference and they are immediately attracted to each other and both find out they have forty-year-old sons who still live with them. Dale has always coasted off his father's accomplishments and quit college his junior yer because he wanted to join the family business even though he never went to medical school. Brennan has always been in the shadow of his younger brother, Derek (Adam Scott) who is extremely successful and a complete douche. It seems like he has some extreme self-esteem issues, which I'm sure would have been explored more if this was a drama. (By the way, I read on the IMDb page (take that with a grain of salt) that Adam McKay wanted to make this a drama and that shocked me! Now I know Ferrell and Reilly have done dramatic roles, but I don't think they're been in one together.) At least Brennan has had a job (at PetSmart), but it sounds like Dale has just mooched off his father his whole life, who seems to enable it.

Nancy and Robert get married and Nancy and Brennan move in with Robert and Dale and we soon get the first scene with the new step brothers. This all happens within the first three minutes, so, like I said, the movie knows what its audience wants.

For the time being, the two grown men will have to share a room and I just loved the heavy sigh that Dale heaves when his dad asks him to show Brennan their room. It is such a thing a teenager would do. On their way to their room, Dale shows Brennan the room with his drum set which he dubbed the "beat laboratory". His one rule is that no one is to never, ever, ever touch his drums. (Will it surprise you that Brennan will play his drums later on? No, I didn't think so.)

Unsurprisingly, Brennan and Dale don't get along and we see a montage of them doing nasty things to each other: Dale knocks Brennan off his father's boat when the family is out on the water and writes "I [heart] crystal meth" on the back of his shirt and Brennan puts make-up on Dale in the middle of the night to make it look like he has gruesome stab wounds on his forehead and neck, so when Dale is walking around the mall the next day, everyone is startled when they see him. Sure, it's a funny gag, but I find it hard to believe that Dale wouldn't have noticed it. Most people use the bathroom when they wake up in the morning and would immediately notice when they looked in the mirror! But most egregiously, he plays Dale's drums when Dale is gone. Dale knows something is up when he comes home because Brennan, who's sprawled out on the couch watching TV is all sweaty (he was really rocking that drum set) and when Dale questions him about it, he tells him it's because he was just watching Cops. (I don't know how watching a tense show would make you sweaty....) Dale also knows something is up because when he goes to inspect his drum set, he finds one of the drum sticks has a chip in it. He questions Brennan about it and tells him he knows he's lying about the reason for being sweaty because Cops doesn't come on until four. This results in Brennan running upstairs and threatening to put his junk on Dale's drum set and proceeds to do just that (luckily with prosthetic genitals, because eww). That results in them getting into a huge altercation and knocking each other into the drum set and smashing into the walls and rolling down the stairs and into the front yard where the fight just escalates. Nancy is trying to stop them by spraying them with a hose and all the neighbors are watching these two grown-ass men just going at it. It finally ends when they each hit each other with a baseball bat/mallet at the same time. In the next scene, we see them sitting on the couch together watching TV while they hold ice packs to their heads. It's the first time we actually see them not trying to kill each other or saying mean things to each other. I loved when Robert turns off the TV and Dale whines, "Dad, what are you doing? It's Shark Week!" Yeah, don't mess with Shark Week!

Robert announces that he and Nancy have set some new rules: they will fix the dry wall (the one they punctured when they were fighting) immediately, they have one month to find jobs or they're out of the house, and no TV for a week. I love the enraged "WHAT?!" from the two of them when they hear the last rule.

You know how when you hear a certain song, it makes you think of a movie it was featured in? I'm not talking about specific songs that were written as the movie's theme songs, but just popular songs that when you hear them, you automatically think of a movie they were used in because they are prominently feature in them. For instance, whenever I hear "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks, I always think of School of Rock. And in this case, whenever I hear "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns 'n Roses, I think of this movie. We are first introduced to Derek when he, his wife, Alice (Kathryn Hahn), and two children are singing that song in the car on their way to visit his mom and new stepdad. Adam Scott played the nicest guy ever on Parks and Rec and he's such a douche bag here that's it so funny. He gets angry when his wife can't hit a note and berates her, telling her he doesn't spend $1200 a week on voice lessons for the family for nothing.

We get some backstory on why Brennan doesn't like Derek: when Brennan was 17 and Derek was 14, they were both in their school's talent show. Brennan sang a song dressed as a pirate. Derek started taunting him and humiliated him, making fun of him for wearing make-up, and even the audience joined in. The moment was so traumatizing for Brennan, that even though he loved to sing, it drudged up bad memories and he was never able to sing in public again. We see the flashback and of course Will Ferrell and Adam Scott are playing their younger versions. Look, I know Adam Scott looks super young for his age, but it might be a stretch for him to play a fourteen-year-old! In the end, Derek won the talent show by lip synching "Ice Ice Baby", probably the douchiest song ever.

This is Derek's first time meeting Robert and Dale. He wasn't able to come to the wedding because he was busy fishing with Mark Cuban, Chris Daughtry, Jeff Probst, and Bobby Flay. (Interesting group). This isn't the only time Derek will name drop: he will also mention hanging out with Chad Michael Murray and Seal (on separate occasions) in different scenes. Robert takes an instant liking to Derek and gets mad at Dale for interrupting the story when he asks Derek a question about the fishing trip. This throws off Derek's train of thought and he says, "Don't be mad at Dale for ruining the story. And possibly the evening."

Brennan has been hanging out in the tree house during dinner to avoid Derek and Dale joins him, telling him he was right about his brother. Derek pops up a few minutes later to taunt both of them. When Dale asks him what his problem is, he replies that he doesn't have a problem, that he made over 550K last year as the VP of "the biggest executive-helicopter-leasing company on the Western Seaboard" and asks them how much they made. He also adds salt to the wound by telling them that he hasn't had a carb since 2004 and lifts up his shirt to show off his abs. This was obviously a male model who was wearing the same clothes because when they show a close up of his abs, you just see the person from the neck down. As he points to his abs, he tells them, "Every day I lather this up with Keihl's in the shower." Haha, I'm sure Keihl's love the promotion! Or maybe not since a totally douchey character was promoting them! He tells Brennan that he'll offer him a job at his company as a Christmas present for their mom, but Brennan refuses.

He taunts them some more, telling them they both look like they want to punch him in the face. When he straight up tells Dale, "punch me in the f**king face", Dale does just that and knocks him out of tree. This is a major turn on to Alice who kisses Dale and tells him that she will pleasure herself to the image of him hitting Derek. They will have a couple of dalliances, but this storyline won't really go anywhere. Lucky for Dale, Derek never finds out that his wife cheated on him with Dale (though I'm willing to bet that Derek has cheated on Alice many times!)

The shared hatred of Derek has also bonded the two step brothers and Brennan shows Dale something only three other people have ever seen: a samurai sword signed by Randy Jackson. When Dale asks him why it's signed by Randy Jackson, Brennan tells him he bumped into the Idol judge and all he had on him was this sword and "you're not gonna not get Randy Jackson's autograph." I have so many questions: where did Brennan bump into Randy Jackson? Most importantly, WHY was he carrying around a samurai sword? I loved Dale's response: "I would've done the exact same thing." This prompts Dale to show Brennan his night-vision goggles and this scene probably has one of my favorite lines when Brennan says, "Can you imagine if we had the when we were twelve?" and Dale replies, "Even better. We got them when we're forty." I mean, I suppose at any age, night-vision goggles are pretty cool.

The two of them bond even further when they play a game where a question is asked and on the count of three, they both answer at the sane time. They both answer "velociraptor" for their favorite dinosaur (though, let's be honest, isn't that everyone's favorite dinosaur, especially those who grew up with Jurassic Park?); they both agree that Good Housekeeping is their favorite non-pornographic magazine to pleasure themselves to (God, I hope Nancy reads them before her sons get a hold of them, eww!); and if they were girls, the one guy they would sleep with would be John Stamos. Look, I can't blame them. I recently saw him on the first season of You on Netflix (and he pops up for a minute in the second season) and dude still looks really good for being in his mid-50s.

As Brennan exclaims, "Did we just become best friends?" and Dale replies with an enthusiastic, "Yep!", we get a montage of them getting along set to "You Make My Dreams Come True" as they do karate in the garage, watch a violent movie, pee at the same time (yeah, that one was weird), and rearrange their room.

They decide to make their beds into bunk beds so they have more floor space. When they ask their parents if they can do that, Robert tells them they don't need permission because they are adults. He is a little annoyed because he has arranged interviews for both of them the next morning and it is late and thinks they should be getting rest instead of moving their beds. From their bedroom, Robert and Nancy hear hammers and a power drill. Robert yells at them not to use a power drill and Dale yells back that it's his tooth brush. At their finished work, Dale proclaims, "Look at that! That looks like something you'd buy from a store!" (It doesn't). You already know what's coming next: Brennan lays down on the bottom bunk and Dale jumps up on the top. He's casually chatting as he climbs up to the top bunk and you're not really paying attention to what he's saying because you're just waiting for the inevitable; which of course, is for the top bunk to collapse on the lower bunk (and poor Brennan!) Dale runs to his parents' room, crying, "It's so bad! There's blood everywhere!" This freaks out the parents, but Brennan only has a cut on his arm.

The next morning, Robert tells the two of them that they can pick out anything from his closet so they look sharp for their job interviews. It's too bad both he and Nancy had to leave before they saw what their sons chose to wear because they would have not approved. They both wear tuxedos as they interview as a team for three different jobs, including one that requires them to clean bathrooms. Actually, I'm surprised that Robert owns two tuxedos! During one interview, done by a woman named Pam, Brennan can't get her name right and keeps calling her "Pan" no matter how many times she keeps correcting him. Adam McKay plays one of the interviewers and Brennan and Dale turn the tables on him telling him that they are going to interview him and engage in a game of F**k, Marry, Kill where his three options are Oprah, Barbara Walters, and his wife. Unfortunately, we never hear his answers! Seth Rogen has a cameo as the third interviewer who runs a sporting goods store and is set to hire them because they seem cool enough, but after Dale lets one rip (in a smalll room, mind you) he quickly revokes the job offer. Later, he will tell his dad, who heard about what happened, that he thought it would be silent. Um, he does still realize it would still stink, right? God, I love how stupidly funny this movie is.

With his drum skills and Brennan's claim of people who have heard him sing calling him "the songbird of his generation", Dale thinks they should start "an international entertainment company" which they'll call Prestige Worldwide. Brennan thinks this is a great idea and they both agree that their parents met just so this very idea could form.

Meanwhile, Robert's dream is to sail around the world on his boat, The Gilded Lady, with Nancy. He originally thought he would have to wait two years before he had the funds to do so, but after talking to Derek, who happens to have a realtor license and told him he could sell his house for thirty per cent above market, he decides that he would rather sail around the world sooner than later. When they tell Brennan and Dale their plan to sell the house, their sons ask what about them and Nancy replies "We thought you should take responsibility for your own lives." Their parents have been generous enough to put enough money in their accounts for a security deposit on an apartment and adds that they are both going to see therapists. I laughed when Robert tells them, "You're adults. It's time you start acting like adults!" and Brennan looks at Nancy and whines "Mo-om!" like a petulant five-year-old. Then I laughed even harder when Robert tells them they're doing this because they love them and Dale replies, "Dad, I'm doing this because I love you: f**k you."  Then I almost died laughing when Brennan tells Dale that when his mom is "of age", he's putting her in a home.

Because of their new circumstances, they know they need to get Prestige Worldwide started and think they should have an investor presentation like they do The Apprentice. (Come to think of it, Prestige Worldwide does sound like a name a team on that show would come up with). Dale tells Brennan he needs to hear him sing to make sure he's as good as he says he is and when Brennan sings, "Something to Talk About", Dale gets this awed look on his face and says that he has the voice of an angel and that it's a combination of Fergie and Jesus. They decide to make a music video using the house (even though the music video they will eventually show doesn't even feature the house) and will go to any length to make sure Derek doesn't sell the house which includes being racist neighbors (they dress up as a Nazi and Klan member) and Brennan made up to look like a dead body as Dale cradles his corpse and cries. (I'm surprised Brennan didn't make Dale up with the stab wounds). There's a call back to Derek's winning song from the talent show as his realtor sign reads, "D-Man Realty" with the tagline, "My homes are nice, nice baby."

I love the scene when Dale is talking to his therapist for the first time and telling him he works as a janitor at a college and sometimes he'll see an equation on the blackboard that he'll solve and that his best friend is Ben Affleck. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? When his therapists questions him, Dale denies it's the plot to Good Will Hunting. Meanwhile, Brennan has strong feeling of love for his attractive female therapist who tells him she does not share the same feeling as him.

When Derek's friends and family gather at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday, Dale and Brennan announce they have "a special surprise" for everyone, telling them they have a "once in a lifetime business opportunity" and are asking for investors for their new company. They show them the world premier of their first music video called "Boats and Hos" which has the two of them rapping extremely vulgar lyrics on Robert's boat as a couple of bikini-clad women are gyrating in the background. Probably the least crass line is the chorus, "I gotta have me some boats and hos." I love that Alice is moving her head to the beat of the music and getting into it. Robert questions who is steering the boat since everyone on board is either rapping or dancing. A horrified look crosses his face when the boat is shown crashing into a rock wall and just folding up into itself. (I'm surprised that Dale and Brennan didn't edit that part out of the video! Yes, Robert would have eventually found out about the boat, but maybe they could have told him later.) On the way home, Brennan asks, "So the big question is, aside from the damage to the boat, which we will fix, what'd you guys think of the presentation?" When he started with "the big question", I thought he was going to ask them if they wanted to invest, which I thought would have been funnier. Robert gets very angry when Nancy tells them that while she doesn't condone what they did to Robert's boat, she does think they show a lot of enthusiasm and inventiveness. They get into a big fight, then Brennan starts screaming at Robert and gets spanked by him.

Earlier in the movie, it was established that both Dale and Brennan sleep walk (seriously, what are the odds of that?) as we see a scene of them walking into the kitchen and making a huge mess as they throw food and dishes everywhere. Dale even put couch pillows in the oven (glad he didn't turn it on!) Things are still tense during the holidays and the brothers sleep walk again on Christmas Eve. They keep bringing presents from downstairs up their parents' room and throwing them onto the bed and the floor, breaking them, and they even bring up the Christmas tree. Robert decides he's just going to wake them up, despite Nancy's warning that you never, ever wake up a sleep walker. He quickly learns his lesson because as soon as he attempts to wake them, they start punching him and throw him down the stairs. I know this sounds horribly violent, but it is also so funny. 

The next evening, at Christmas dinner, Nancy and Robert announce to the family that they are getting a divorce. Nancy reiterates that it's not Brennan and Dale's fault when the brothers begin to question if it is and that they don't want them to blame themselves. Robert, however, tells them, "It is directly your fault. You destroyed my boat, you beat me up in your sleep, and worst of all, you made Nancy and I resent each other. It is absolutely 150 percent your fault!"

Brennan and Dale get into fight over their parents' divorce and blame the other for it. They stop talking to each other and decide it's time to grow up. Brennan asks for a job from Derek and Dale gets a job as a caterer at a temp agency. Brennan wants to step up his game and asks his brother if he can run the Catalina Wine Mixer which is "the biggest helicopter-leasing event in the Western hemisphere since 1997". It's the Catalina f**king Wine Mixer! He hires Dale as the caterer and both Nancy and Robert are also invited.

The band hired to play is called Uptown Girl and they only cover 1980s Billy Joel songs. When someone suggests they play "Piano Man", the lead singer tells him they only play '80s Billy Joel songs and proceeds to get into a yelling match and storm off the stage when people don't understand why they won't play other songs from his discography. According to Derek, this has ruined the event and he fires Brennan on the spot.

Robert gathers Brennan and Dale and encourages them to go up on stage and perform. He tells them a ludicrous story of how he always wanted to be a T-rex when he was a boy and he would make his arms short and roam the neighborhood, growing and roaring, as he chased cats. His dad told him, "You're 17, stop being a dinosaur and get a f**king job." So he became a doctor, always thinking he could go back to his dream later, but he never did and he doesn't want this opportunity to pass by for Dale and Brennan. I love how they're like, "You're a human, how could you be a dinosaur?" Dale agrees with his father, saying, "I'm f**king miserable! I had to get up at ten this morning!" Oh my God, shut up, Dale! I consider it a fabulous day when I can sleep in until ten.

The Catalina Wine Mixer is saved as Dale plays the drums while Brennan performs an opera song which enchants everybody: Nancy and Robert get back together, Brennan's therapist (who's there for some reason) starts to return feelings for Brennan, and even Derek is so moved that he has a better relationship with his brother.

Six months later we find out that Dale and Brennan have a booming karaoke business called Karaoke 'n' Roll where the motto is, "If you can't sing, just sit down."

I admit I haven't seen all of the films Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have done together and it's been a long time since I've seen Talladega Nights, which might be the only other true contender, but I would say Step Brothers is my favorite movie they've done together. 

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